Pirkko Saisio’s Concrete Night (1981) and the suspect “realism” of the concrete high-rise suburb in literary fiction

I’m participating in the 21.9. ALUS symposium “Large-Scale Housing Projects as Productive Space in Literature and Culture” at the Tensta konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden.

I will present a paper on Pirkko Saisio’s Concrete Night (1981) and the suspect “realism” of the concrete high-rise suburb in literary fiction.

The starting point of my presentation is the observation that the novel has been widely read as a “realistic” depiction of the high-rise suburb, and consequently, as providing reliable insights into the supposed social and moral state of depravity in these environments. But a closer examination shows that this realism is far from accurate. The environments of the novel cannot be placed on any actual map of Helsinki, and most of the descriptions of the surroundings provide a reflection of a troubled, hypersensitive mind, rather than a detailed depiction of space. The evocation of the high-rise suburb thus has to be set against a complex cross-examination of the naturalist and symbolist undercurrents of the novel, as well as against the overall poetics and ethos at work in the oeuvre of Saisio.

Very much looking forward to the full program and to having a symposium in what promises to be a fascinating venue in an urban peripheral environment – the Tensta konsthall. Many thanks to Lydia Wistisen of Stockholm University for bringing this all together!

More information can be found here.

9.00–10.00 ALUS members meeting (closed)
10.00–10.15 Welcoming
10.15–10.45. Erik Stenberg & Erik Sigge (KTH Scool of Architecture): Structural Systems of the
Million Programme Era: People, Factories, and Housing
10.45–11.00 Coffee and refreshments
11.00–11.30 Lieven Ameel (University of Turku): Pirkko Saisio’s Concrete Night (1981) and the
Suspect “Realism” of the Concrete High-Rise Suburb in Literary Fiction
11.30–12.00 Caroline Merkel (Stockholm University): Suburbs as Creative Space in German
12.00–12.30 Hanna Henrysson (Uppsala University): The Hochhaus Experience: Coming of Age
in West Berlin’s Gropiusstadt
12.30–13.30 Lunch at Tensta konsthall
13.30–14.00 Jason Finch (Åbo Akademi University): Myth and Materiality in The Pruitt-Igoe
14.00–14.30 Alexander Scott (University of Wales Trinity St David): From “Corbusian
Piggeries” to “Toytown Cottages”: Urban Regeneration, Housing Policy and Responses to Post-War Modernism in 1980s Liverpool
14.30–15.00 Coffee and refreshments
15.00–15.30 Lydia Wistisen (Stockholm University): The Million Program in Swedish Teenage
15.30–16.00 Roundtable discussion
16.00–17.30 Showing of museum collections and walking tour
19.00– Dinner (for invited guests)

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